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A police surveillance database could be storing your Facebook selfies if your profile is public

Agencies are buying access to huge databases with billions of images.

Facial recognition being shown on a person with fingerprint data
Image: Cisco

In the age of social media, it’s common for someone to take regular selfies to update their online profiles for friends and family. As it turns out, many of those images you post online are available to everyone, and law enforcement even uses your images to build its database.

A report from MLive helps to clarify something that most of us are at least already suspicious of: Law enforcement agencies across the country are using social media images to build their databases for improving facial recognition software.

Over the years, law enforcement has had access to facial recognition AI to help find wanted individuals more easily. The facial recognition software improves over time and as more images are added to its databases for learning purposes. This makes compiling huge libraries of photos very appealing to law enforcement agencies, and social media is a great source for them.

READ MORE: Shady AI company agrees to limit sales of facial recognition tech

Of course, these agencies aren’t gathering the data themselves. Companies like Clearview AI operate in the business of scraping social platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, for images that they can then sell to law enforcement. There is still some gray area regarding the legality and morality of this practice, but that hasn’t stopped law enforcement agencies from taking advantage of those massive image databases.

By now, most people are aware that everything they post on the internet is somewhat public, and it makes sense that law enforcement would use those assets to its advantage.

However, this definitely sheds a bit of light on the processes used to enhance the abilities of facial recognition software. It will be interesting to see how the software changes and evolves in the future, but there’s no doubt that it has the potential to become a huge detriment to personal privacy.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Staff writer at KnowTechie. Alex has two years of experience covering all things technology, from video games to electric cars. He's a gamer at heart, with a passion for first-person shooters and expansive RPGs. Shoot him an email at

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